Sunday, November 15, 2009

Step Outlines For the Win!

Totally purloined the image off some poor website in google images. Thanks ::checks link:: It's cute though, and I wanted it.

So, Step Outlines.

As I found in the last short screenplay I wrote, they can be a very helpful little monster, these outlines, and not just for screenplays. If you know what they are and haven't been using them, give them a whirl and see how it influences your work. I'm one to skive off of a lot of prep work, and generally think I don't need it, but boy howdy step outlines helped my mediocre "writing it because I need something to turn in" short.

If you do know and do use, well, I dunno, it's up to you whether or not you want to read this post (versus the rest of you who are supernaturally compelled, apparently, because only those who presently use step outlines are given the choice). However, before you click away from my page, I don't know how you do step outlines, but in the brief internet search I did, people's how to's (I don't think the apostrophe in the "to" of "how to" is appropriate, but it's easier to read) were different than the method I use, so you may want to stick around regardless. For those who do not know what a step outline is or how it might help you...

This is how they work:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Screenplay pReview: Source Code

I don't want to say director Duncan Jones looks like Peter Pettigrew in this picture but... well, he looks kind of like Peter Pettigrew in this picture.

Anyway, Source Code, the screenplay that's been kicking since 2007 that everyone and their momma loves and will likely finally be in production early next year (Jake Gyllenhaal in negotiations to star).

I thought it was good. *shrug*

It's billed as a sci-fi/thriller and yeah, it's a good script. A really good script. I wasn't bored once and that, in my novice screenplay-reading experience, means something. Whether it's because I'm new to the screenplay format and it takes a little extra work to fully immerse myself in, or whether I've just been reading crappier screenplays, I start getting antsy and distracted half way through them. This one I didn't.

The problem is, to me, it read like it would play out like any other blockbuster action/suspense movie of the modern age and since I came into it expecting sci fi... well, I was disappointed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Book to Screen: The Lovely Bones

Alright, it's about time to get down with my first Book to Screen post, something I think will be a recurring, though not necessarily regular, segment.

Here is a part of my Goodreads review (which was short to begin with), which basically says my thoughts on the book.

I felt the book was like a sentimental drama thriller, without the usual melodrama that accompanies stories of this type. It's like an "easy listening" suspense story, if you know what I mean. That doesn't mean it's cheap or sappy, not at all. I enjoyed it a lot and it affected me emotionally but it was a comfortable ride, for the most part, despite the horrors that occurred within the story.

I enjoyed the book. I give it a 3.3ish out of 5.

Now the screenplay by Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens and Peter Jackson (who seems to only do adaptations). Trying without spoilers.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Quick Lesson from Mira Nair

I love Mira Nair. I admit, I don't know her work well at all. I've only seen Monsoon Wedding (which she directed and produced) and Vanity Fair (which she directed and I saw when it came out and I didn't like it). But my love comes all from Monsoon Wedding. It is one of my favorite movies (and there really aren't really many things I will right out call "favorites," I'm too loving to name names and too indecisive to commit) and I adore it whole heartedly. (Note to self: Put Mira Nair movies to top of Netflix list. Hurry and go see Amelia.)

Here is a quick lesson from Mira Nair, via Third World Girl over at Three Hole Punched, who attended the IFP's Independent Film Conference in New York where Mira Nair spoke (Bobby said, that Sally said, the Jimmy said... Yes, my through the grapevine/telephone game paraphrase lesson from Mira Nair). I looked for a direct quote on the internet for a couple minutes and came up with nothing helpful. So here is the he said/she said version of it. Thanks Third World Girl.

Don't "anthropoligize" or explain too much culturally. If you watch Monsoon Wedding you'll see how much you're thrust into the action. There's no expositional dialogue about why we dress this way or wear this henna, or sing this song. There's no outsider leading you through the action and the work is all the richer and more authentic for it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


These are U.K. aerosols by the way.

Anyway, I'm swallowing books like they're very very large candies so I figure I ought to read screenplays as well. I pledge to read at least 1 screenplay a week. Not as if that should be a hard promise to live up to, they only take a couple of hours to read. It's just tedious reading them off the computer and I feel badly if I print them out. I think I'll have to see if I can read them in a 2page per 1 format and then use both sides.

I was looking for a copy of The Lovely Bones screenplay, as I'll be done with the book soon and the movie's coming out but I couldn't find it.

Book Review: A Long Way Down

A Long Way Down A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I don't want to add every book review I do on Goodreads up here, but seeing as I did the other Nick Hornby review up here, I felt I should put this one here too. Also, it's an update, when otherwise I have nothing to share.

I loved this book. I'll be rereading it some time in the future.

This book is written in the first person view of 4 individuals. Each time the narration changes, the writing is imbued with the personality of the one telling the story, which is of course how it should be, but it's wonderfully done.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Book Review: How to Be Good

How to Be Good How to Be Good by Nick Hornby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the first Nick Hornby novel I've read and I've put him on a list of authors to look for in the used bookstore.

This book was swift and fun to read. I get excited whenever I see an interesting female lead in a novel, particularly one written by a man, and this story's female lead is wonderful. She's witty and clever, as well as selfish enough (in the suddenly apparently selfless world she's found herself in)to be entertaining while retaining relatability. I found her charming and layered.

All the characters in the book are surprisingly dynamic, including the two young children of the main character, Katie Carr, and her husband, David. In many reads, children have little personality and are only there for a foil to work against or tools to make drama. However these children, Tom and Molly, are funny, reactive, and well rounded. They do well in putting the adult's strange world into perspective.

There are some great observations, some great lines. I liked this one particularly:
Love, it turns out, is as undemocratic as money, so it accumulates around people who have plenty of it already.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Return of Me

Sorry non-existent readers in the ether! I had disappeared for some time, as I had predicted. It all came on far sooner than I had hoped.

Update on my writing:

I have written a short screenplay that needs more work. It is currently at 15 pages and contains an ending I am somewhat unsatisfied with but at this moment do not know how to change for the better.

I am currently enrolled in a screenwriting class and a fiction writing class. I have written many a short piece for the fiction writing class. Until recently, I had been convinced I was over fiction writing; That it wasn't for me, I wasn't built to wax on about sight and smell and sound and scape in literature.

Things change.

I'm happy in the class and I'm happy in writing. It takes... discipline. Discipline is not one of my greater talents; I have discipline better than some, worse than many, but if I can somehow make myself into a person that writes rather than can write, well, I think it's something I worth striving for. I may construct myself into a person who wakes up at 4:30 am every morning to write for two hours or... who knows what. It's something I'm looking into, considering.

It is one week before NaNoWriMo officially kicks off, and I have designs on winning it (that is to say, complete the challenge). I want to write a 50k word piece of fiction. To have that under my belt. To know I can do it.

I'm not sure what on. Yet. "But," as Betty Draper says "I do have thoughts."

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Character Voice and Speech Patterns

I just read Woody Allen's Annie Hall screenplay and it was kind of weird. It was like the text was transcribed after someone had spoken the words. What I mean is, there were so many stuttered words in the dialogue, "ums," sentences starting over half way through, overlapping dialogue. Here's a piece of random dialogue:

Friday, July 31, 2009

Responsibility, Respect, & Recognition: The Playwright vs The Screenwriter

This is kind of a part 2 to this post of mine, as it's from the same stream of thought.

In that previous post I ask various questions pertaining to the responsibilities of the screenwriter vs. those of the director. In plays the responsibilities seem to be very different. Part of a playwright's responsibility is to refrain from directing the piece on paper, to refrain from explanation and to let the actors and directors do these jobs. Any directing and explaining needs to be cleverly hidden within the dialogue to make it something that can't be thrown out and/or resented by those putting on the play. Contrary to the "Show don't tell" rules that abound in fiction and screenwriting it's a "show, through telling" that is going on in a play's text. A clever mention of something can imply that certain bit of direction must happen, without outwardly saying "so and so moves this way." It's partially this lack of stage direction and limited descriptions of the scenery that allow plays to be performed time and time again under various interpretations.

Perhaps screenwriting holds similar conventions I haven't found yet, but if the screenwriter is as responsible for the visualization and presentation of the story as the screenplays I've read imply, why don't the screenwriters get more respect from their peers and recognition from the audience?

In theater, actors and directors hold relatively steadfast to what is on paper. Scenes may be cut, a few lines of dialogue too, but it's my feeling that, for the most part, actors and directors try to adhere to what is written and work around and with it rather than through it. On first production the actors and directors may have varying degrees of impact on the final result, the playwright can be encouraged/forced to change things just as in film, but in the end it seems to me that the playwright will get a whole lot more recognition from the theater community and audience than the screenwriter will. It's strange to realize as so far, it seems to me the screenwriter might have a bit more responsibility for the end result.

Instead, the screenwriter seems to be abused. After a screenwriter sells their work they (seem, from what I'm learning) to be in a bad position. They've made more money than the playwright will likely make, but their screenplay can get shredded up into every which way, or even perhaps heavily rewritten. They get the blame if the movie is bad, with critics saying the director did the best they could with a crappy script (despite a critic never having read the script) and then little to none of the credit and congratulations when the film is good. On top of that, how many people, even those who are "serious" about film, can name the writer of their favored piece? They can name directors and actors, sometimes even producers more than the writer.

This has a great deal to do with the movie being a visual, one time thing, I understand. Plays can be produced over and over and over again forever which contributes to why a playwright's name survives, even if the population at large can't name 5 plays when asked. But those that do watch plays can name the playwright at a far higher rate than those who see films can name the screenwriter.

Money changes the dynamic but the movie usually wouldn't exist without the writer. It's the other pieces that, logically, seem the replaceable ones but it's the writer that gets bullied. Is it because we're the nerds in the room?

I understand that sometimes writers can be bad. Stories don't go how the people in charge think they should go and sometimes, yeah, a writer might need to be replaced and/or blamed. But how come they seem to rarely get the inverse of that, at least publicly?

CUT TO: questions

I was reading the iconic shower scene from Psycho (posted as a "Great Scene" of the day at, again, Go Into the Story) and seeing Joseph Stefano's direction in the script as to how it should be filmed... I was stricken. Where, in film, does the writer end and director begin?

Maybe to some it seems obvious, but coming from a theater background it is a little strange to see all the "stage directions" on the page. Not so much the action, I very much understand the inclusion of that, but more so the "shots" it describes. It doesn't only describe what is going on, but how we see it which is what surprises/confuses me a little. This is the iconic Hitchcock film... how much of that scene is Hitchcock, and how much of it is Stefano?

Much of the specifics, angles and the like, is something I'd expect the director do. Is it because it's a shooting script and it is after the director and writer have collaborated? In that case my reading of the shooting script in whole won't answer my question. Is the writer responsible for how the viewer is to eventually see his action in such a way? In part, of course, the way it's filmed would effect the story greatly, but still, coming from theater it's something I'd expect the director to have the greater responsibility for. Also, is what the writer describes as far as scenes and editing - Cut to, reverse angle, the camera moves away - something one expects to be changed by other parties eventually and the writer does mostly in the spirit of conveying better the tone of the story? In that case, it would be the writer's attempt at communication to parties involved, so when/if it does get changed, they are better able to keep the writer's vision in tact (if they wish to be so respectful). I understand that these bits are often likely to be added once the script is bought and not usually included to such a degree in one's spec script, so perhaps the idea of it being after collaboration makes sense (but so does the expectation of a director throwing it out). Or does the writer tend to only start listing such specifics in a particularly pivotal scene? Coming to think of it, the screenplays I've read don't constantly describe the angles, it's more a "sometimes" thing, so this may yet be the answer.

Maybe they're all right and it's all circumstantial. I'm sure it is, regardless, to a point. But I'm also sure there must be a more precise answer than "it depends."

I don't have the answers to these questions yet but I thought it important to include them up here so as to remember them in the future.

I'll try to remember and post an update when I eventually discover the answer.

The scene also had me questioning something else re: playwriting vs. screenwriting, but I'll post it separately. Long posts can be daunting to a reader.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Readin' Readin' Readin' and Doin'

One of the first screenwriting blogs I grew attached to was Scott Meyer's Go Into The Story. He updates many times a day and besides offering his opinions on what's going on in the film world he makes an effort to help any fledgling screenwriters that hop along his path by offering helpful hints. He teaches online courses for UCLA so it's a "thing" for him I guess, you know... being helpful.

Anyway, so one of the suggestions he makes is to read screenplays. Its a common thing students hear "If you want to write, read books, if you want to act, watch plays, if you want to do something else, engage as a spectator of someone else's something else." However, it's not only a tip people often ignore, with screenwriting maybe one decides watching movies is enough. Either way it's a common message.

Meyer goes farther than that though. He has what he calls 14 days of screenplays where he links to 14 screenplays of differing authors and styles. His hope, more or less, is that by reading a screenplay everyday for a time will force your brain into picking up something more quickly via osmosis. That, in reading many works in a short period, your brain will start playing connect-the-dots and see the patterns more clearly and quickly than it might otherwise. So I've been doing this.


I've only recently (very recently) begun considering the writing of screenplays as a worthwhile endeavor for myself. I like thinking up stories and characters and dialogue but my forays into fiction writing didn't leave me very happy. I didn't enjoy that process very much and for the most part found it tedious. It recently occurred to me that maybe novels were the wrong medium for me. I've written short bits of plays before and liked it, liked spending time with the characters, but occasionally found it limiting. Maybe screenwriting can bring together the bits of the writing worlds I like in a way that suits me.

I've been immersing myself in the screenwriting world these past few days. Reading blogs, screenplays, books pertaining to screenwriting, and journaling about my own ideas. I thought perhaps keeping my own blog about my process might be interesting. As a very, very, novice screenwriter-to-be (I've yet to add word to paper in a formal non-journal scribble form - no actual screenwriting done yet) I know frighteningly little about the craft. This blog can discover things with me and can perhaps be fun for others to follow as I hopefully go from one in the early stages of exploration to someone confident and experienced with work under her belt.

Here I think I'll share resources I've found helpful as well as my process of self-teaching, frustrations, and solutions. If nothing else, if no one finds this blog worth their time or nothing comes of my writing, well, it can be a time capsule for a bit of my life where I thought I found something.